Posts tagged faq
Stationery, Not Stationary: Michelle's First Year!
My first inking and letterpress experience!!! I had Molly and Sara put their signatures on it as it was a full team effort with design, setting, and inking.

My first inking and letterpress experience!!! I had Molly and Sara put their signatures on it as it was a full team effort with design, setting, and inking.

Trying out some product staging for social media… anyone remember this? It was such a mess upstairs, but I was having so much fun!

Trying out some product staging for social media… anyone remember this? It was such a mess upstairs, but I was having so much fun!

February window display plan (revised a few times, of course). My sketchbook was a bunch of scribbled pages that I hoped would come to life.

February window display plan (revised a few times, of course). My sketchbook was a bunch of scribbled pages that I hoped would come to life.

A colorful shipment of Lamy fountain pens! One of those lovely, left hand pinks became my new BFF in the letter writing game. Now I travel with it!

A colorful shipment of Lamy fountain pens! One of those lovely, left hand pinks became my new BFF in the letter writing game. Now I travel with it!

When your work comes home… clearly Sara is rubbing off on me and my intrigue with mailboxes has become a thing. I had to make my own!

When your work comes home… clearly Sara is rubbing off on me and my intrigue with mailboxes has become a thing. I had to make my own!

Remembering the worthiness of my feelings as a new shipment of meaningful products came in. I couldn’t have planned it better with my nail color. :D

Remembering the worthiness of my feelings as a new shipment of meaningful products came in. I couldn’t have planned it better with my nail color. :D

Making friends through snail mail and music! Yes, I was stoked. Yes I have amazing friends through working at C&Co. Community comes easy here.

Making friends through snail mail and music! Yes, I was stoked. Yes I have amazing friends through working at C&Co. Community comes easy here.

Sara’s window display skills are amazing, as well as her ability to make any moment fun!!! She brought in cookies and cocoa so we could decorate. <3

Sara’s window display skills are amazing, as well as her ability to make any moment fun!!! She brought in cookies and cocoa so we could decorate. <3

It’s Been A Year?!

August 2019 marks one year since I’ve been with the Constellation & Co. crew. I suppose it takes a moment of reflection to realize how much time has passed and how much I’ve grown into my role. I’ve told Molly several times recently that it feels as if we both started last month. I’m amazed how a year has just flown for the both of us. I mean, we started the same day, a very special detail to me as we’ve become friends!

When I got hired by Sara last year, it was divine providence. I was praying for my “what next” and apparently, so was she. It’s a much bigger story than that, but the process of finding my way into C&Co was way too perfect for me to take credit.

I’ve learned and experienced a lot in my first year and the best way I could think to summarize it was in images and some overarching themes (That’s a creative writer for you!). Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along my C&Co journey.

Building Stories

I’m a writer and an illustrator, so I’m not unfamiliar with being creative and telling stories, but working at C&Co has really given me the opportunity to help Sara tell the story of Constellation & Co. and expand upon my definition of what comprises storytelling. I’ve had a hand in planning and designing window displays, copy editing catalogs, co-creating content for YouTube, illustrating for cards, staging and sharing social imagery, and figuring out how to best display products. I’ve learned that the “voice” you use throughout your writing, vlogging, podcasting, displays, and even your storefront all need to communicate the same message. It’s your brand and your story and most importantly, it needs to be authentic!

Trying New Things

You’d think that with my role being so versatile and ever-evolving that I’d be more open to change, but I struggle with it! And sometimes, it’s in the smallest of ways. I’ve written another blog about how I got into stationery and what it was like for me growing up and writing letters. My perfectionism often got in the way and kept me from sending snail mail.

After watching Sara send letter after letter, I’ve finally developed my own habit of regular writing. But, it took some self-bribing! See, these beautiful, pastel Lamy fountain pens arrived one day and I kept looking at them. I told myself I didn’t need one, that I wouldn’t use it enough, etc…. Then, one day I just decided to stop making up reasons not to buy one, took the plunge, and picked one in pastel pink (I had banned pink for a long time; it’s come back as a new favorite.)! Since then, I’ve learned to really love writing letters and am grateful I made a change. :)

Also, I can’t forget to mention that I took the plunge and added a furry, snail mail helper to my family this year! He’s more interested in playing with the stationery than sending it (and chewing on my Lamy pen), but it’s a good reminder to take better care of where I store things. :D

Mental Health Awareness

Sara’s focus on mental health and being transparent about what she’s going through has really helped me become aware of the worthiness of my own feelings. There’s only so much time before someone working in a feelings-focused, brutally honest, card carrying shop has to come face to face with the reality of life and the feelings that come with it.

I can definitely say that I’m more self-aware and better at noticing and caring for my needs, being honestly vulnerable, and accepting of the fact that life is life and that we can use words to express and share what we’re going through with those around us. It’s how we build community. <3

Connecting with Community

This year, I’ve discovered what it means to be part of a community. Sara has built friendships through Card Club, the Puget Sound Correspondence Society, the Snail Mail Superstar community, etc.… and I’ve been privileged to jump in and become part of communities she’s already formed!

I’ve received supportive snail mail from folks near and far and had the opportunity to make my own friends in shop, both coworkers and shop patrons alike! I am so pleased to see how joining C&Co has given me opportunities to grow over this past year and experience the joy of friendship and community in new ways.

P.S. Thanks for the snail mail, friends!!!

Never Stationary

Looking back over this year, I can see I’ve made progress and overcome my fear of remaining stationary by diving into creative learnings, developing a stronger willingness to try new things, and by taking time to invest in myself as well as in my community. New things can be hard, especially for me, but joining the C&Co crew has opened me up to what I’m capable of and what good can come from being willing to trust that God has a good plan for me through change!

Thanks to Sara, Molly, and everyone who has supported me over the last year through smiles, snail mail, and sweet conversation. :D You’re a special part of my stationery journey and I’m excited to see what the next year holds.

Yours truly,

Michelle

P.P.S. Please make sure to let Sara and Molly know that you’re now aware of their secret talents when you’re next in shop.

That time Sara put Molly and I on a postcard… I texted a few people to let them know how excited I was being so “official” as a C&amp;Co team member.

That time Sara put Molly and I on a postcard… I texted a few people to let them know how excited I was being so “official” as a C&Co team member.

If anyone came in shop this day, you’d have seen a pile of my childhood stationery all over a table. Sara asked me to create a thumbnail for our YouTube video on Lisa Frank stationery… have you seen the video?

If anyone came in shop this day, you’d have seen a pile of my childhood stationery all over a table. Sara asked me to create a thumbnail for our YouTube video on Lisa Frank stationery… have you seen the video?

The February (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day) window display for C &amp; Co that I planned and thankfully, came out so nicely. Sara’s added vision made it pop.

The February (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day) window display for C & Co that I planned and thankfully, came out so nicely. Sara’s added vision made it pop.

Shameless kitten plug… this was the day that Sara and Molly got to meet the little guy. I had been bringing home empty envelope boxes for him to play in!

Shameless kitten plug… this was the day that Sara and Molly got to meet the little guy. I had been bringing home empty envelope boxes for him to play in!

My furry child helping “stamp” the mail. He’s much, much bigger now as he grows so fast (and apparently, ragdolls can get huge), but he still chews on my Lamy pen and is into everything paper… Gotta watch that one.

My furry child helping “stamp” the mail. He’s much, much bigger now as he grows so fast (and apparently, ragdolls can get huge), but he still chews on my Lamy pen and is into everything paper… Gotta watch that one.

So many others have been part of my C&amp;Co journey, but this “weekday” crew has had a big impact on my first year. Of course, I had to draw us!

So many others have been part of my C&Co journey, but this “weekday” crew has had a big impact on my first year. Of course, I had to draw us!

Molly and I (conveniently, not pictured. :D) having our regular, team french fry meeting. Sara couldn’t make it, but Molly posed so she could enjoy it vicariously via photo. Community thrives!

Molly and I (conveniently, not pictured. :D) having our regular, team french fry meeting. Sara couldn’t make it, but Molly posed so she could enjoy it vicariously via photo. Community thrives!

That time I convinced Molly to do a dance number in shop. It was wonderful. Did you guys know she can sing and by sing, I mean sing well???

That time I convinced Molly to do a dance number in shop. It was wonderful. Did you guys know she can sing and by sing, I mean sing well???

What's the deal with impression?
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Naomi, a lovely paper cut artist (seriously, check her stuff out!), commented with a great question on my last post, and I spent some time this morning putting together an answer. It's a question that comes up a lot. I think it might be of interest to more folks, so i'll repeat it here! I've also included some example photos which will hopefully help clarify some of the thoughts. Fellow printers, feel free to comment with your own thoughts - I know it's a topic that everyone has an opinion on, and I'd love to hear yours!

Naomi said: I have questions! I have questions! I’m so fascinated with the letterpress process, thank you for sharing it with us. I don’t know if you have both a manual and electric press, but would you say there are jobs that are more suited for the hand-crank over the electric-powered machine (besides for reason of quantity, of course). There are letterpress studios that make really “pillowy” impressions, and others that look more shallow. I wonder, do you change the impression on the paper for different jobs, or do you set one impression depth and that’s the look you want to be known for?

Here's my answer: We only have manual presses. They are either treadle powered with my feet (platen press), or operated with my hands (iron handpress), with each piece being fed into the press by hand. There are definitely benefits to motorized or more mechanized presses – larger quantities can be printed at a time, and more impression (depth into the paper) can be achieved. But in my opinion, you lose something of the joy & the quality of printing by hand when the machine is doing a lot of the work. The problem solving, measurements, and set-up are done similarly no matter what type of press you’re using, but the actual process of running the job is different. I really love the repetitive, rhythmic work-out that is printing manually, but it’s not for everyone and certainly has its limitations (quantity, needing to be in good health & stamina to print, etc.). I also think that printing manually (treadle vs. motor on a platen press) is much safer. The speed is set by your leg instead of by a motor, and your body inherently works well together. I’m not saying i’ll never have a motorized or mechanized press, but for now I prefer the simpler way.

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Photopolymer printing plates

Impression is a hotly debated issue among printers. Traditionally, impression was considered bad printing. Old school printers would shoot for “kiss” printing with no impression at all. A lot of the reason for this is that lead type is a somewhat soft metal. Too much impression damaged the type, and a printer’s type was their livelihood. As letterpress made its revival & photopolymer was invented, people wanted to show off the print method with heavy impression. Photopolymer can’t be easily damaged by heavy impression, so there were less reasons to avoid it. New school printers love to embrace the inherent qualities of letterpress (impression, inking tendencies, etc.), and I tend to be among them. BUT impression is effected by a few important things I’m always keeping in mind:

Some of difference you’re seeing in impression from shop to shop is caused by the size of the press & the type of the job. Each press has a maximum amount of pressure, and that amount increases with the size of press. My platen press is an 8×12, so it will by nature be capable of less impression than a 10×15 or 11×18. I chose the 8×12 because i’m 5’6″ and around 120lbs. It didn’t make sense to buy a press that would dwarf me. I can do 1,500 impressions on my best day, but I wouldn’t be able to pull off so many on a larger press. It’s also really bad for the press to max out it’s pressure an a daily basis. These presses are 100+ years old, and while cast iron is sturdy, it can be broken. I know my press well, and I have to listen to it. There are days i’d love to get more impression, but I won’t achieve it at the cost of hurting my press.

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Business card with heavy impression on 100% cotton Lettra paper

I can effect impression on my press by adding or subtracting a hard red board or oiled paper called tympan. There is some control of various areas of the print job. The Beth Ann Locke business card above is a good example of that - I added additional impression to the top section, but not the bottom. I don't love the way small typography looks with too much impression - like the type is sinking in a ditch. This is even a bit more impression on the small type (black type on the bottom) than i'm comfortable with, but it's what the client wanted. There is some room for taste in here for sure.

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Kiss impression on recycled chipboard

Impression can also be effected by paper type – a lovely thick cotton paper will easily compress when printed, where something that is compressed already (like recycled chipboard) won’t compress much, and won’t have much impression no matter how hard you hit it.

The pressure of the press is evenly distributed across what you’re printing, so the job size also makes a big difference. I can get a lot more impression on a business card than I can on a large piece.

Impression is also affected by the design. Some designs have enclosed areas (like the counter on letterforms) that will buckle & break (looks like the paper is tearing). That’s something I can’t stand to hand off to a client. It’s just bad printing!

I keep those things in mind every time I print a job, and have to weigh what’s possible, what’s practical and what the client wants. So there you have it! Thanks for asking, Naomi! I hope it was helpful.

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In my opinion, juuuuust the right amount of impression.

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Blind deboss - printing with impression only, no ink.

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Heavy impression, one element printed with transparent white ink for contrast